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Too Much Is Not Enough Alan Rider wonders, are we swimming or drowning in the ever increasing torrent of new releases?

Too Much Is Not Enough

Alan Rider wonders, are we swimming or drowning in the ever increasing torrent of new releases?

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: July, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

the next time you hear an artist proudly proclaim to the world on Social Media that they have umpteen things coming out in the next few months, that they never stop working... don’t feel you automatically need to gasp in admiration

When multi-Billionaire CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, sparked outrage recently with his ill-considered comments on X (the silly new name for Twitter) about the supposed cheapness and ease of creating new ‘content’ (otherwise known to the rest of us as music!) for his revenue stealing platform, it started me thinking about the volumes of new stuff being produced every day and just what that is doing to our psyche.  Although exploiter-in-chief, and all-round bad person, Ek was reluctantly shamed into a patronising and mealy mouthed un-apology (implying to us that his mistake was that he should really have used simpler language, as we are all too stupid to understand his point), coupled with the usual fake hubris (“that’s on me”), he does have a point about whether the vast volumes of ‘content’ produced daily and facilitated by his streaming platform for the vast financial benefit of him and his shareholders, has any lasting value to the world.  More to the point, even if some of it does manage to outlast a lettuce, how will we ever find it again under such a mountain of stuff?  It’s not just music we are talking about, either.  Pretty much anything online multiplies exponentially, now ably assisted by AI.  Whereas archaeologists previously had to carefully sift through the scattered remains of the past, piecing together details from fragile fragments, when, in the far future, they come to excavate the artefacts of the Plastic Age, they will be shovelling through great heaps of the stuff, with every conceivable need and taste represented a thousand times over.Detritus

The LA Times estimated that there are around 300,000 items in the average American home.  That will vary country by country of course, but that staggering figure illustrates that we are producing things at a rate that is clearly unsustainable and unnecessary.  That is fed by the economic system we operate, which rewards constant growth, with companies competing with each other to sell more and expand their product lines at an ever-increasing pace.  To sell the same volumes this year as they did the year before is seen as ‘stagnation’. More is good and too much is still not enough to satisfy ‘the market’.  Productivity is seen as the most desirable human trait.  To put that on a level that relates to the arts, being frenetically busy and producing new albums, art, books, films, and so on at an ever increasing, breakneck pace is universally hailed as a virtue.  Whenever I ask anyone how they have been? “Really busy!” is always the default reply.  No one ever says “I’ve been taking it easy”, or “I’m not releasing anything this year”, even if that means unnecessarily re-issuing old releases in ever more extravagant and overpriced packages (step forward Soft Cell!), or launching into punishing 40+ date US tours. Keeping the conveyor belt going is the thing.  A large part of the blame for that falls at the doors of the Daniel Ek’s of this world, who deprive artists of so much of their income that they are trapped into an endless cycle of recording, releasing, touring, just to scrape a living. The average life of an album is vanishingly short.  Once released, it rapidly becomes old hat and attention quickly turns to the next new release.  We’ve all done it. We wait breathlessly for the new book/album/film to come out, rush to buy or watch it, then on the shelf it goes to gather dust and we are hungry for the follow up. Record Store day each year sees queues around the block of punters desperate to snag that ‘must have’ release simply because it is only available on that day.

What is this constant pressure to keep up with the flow of new releases, be they records, films, books, or ‘must see’ gigs and events doing to the average person? Moreover, what is it doing to the artists that are rushing to maintain that pace of delivery, almost 24/7?  It’s no wonder that mental health issues are on the rise. The most common sentiment expressed to me by musicians big and small when talking about lockdown and the pandemic is, after frustration at having to cancel tours, that it gave them time to re-set, to think and reflect, to sleep, and to spend a little precious time at home. That’s all gone now of course, cast aside in the rush to re-join the race.

What is the solution?  Do less?  Slow down a bit?  Be less ‘productive’ (heaven forbid)? Well, why not?  Everyone will agree that quantity does not guarantee quality, and fast art is not automatically better than more considered, slowly created art.  There was a once popular social movement that was even called ‘Slow’, based on the premise that taking time to appreciate things – stopping to smell the roses, if you like – was a positive thing, and that the notion of doing everything (working, eating, travelling, creating) as frenetically as possible simply wasn’t a very healthy or rewarding way to live your life (the lack of nutrition found in fast food being just one example).  So the next time you hear an artist proudly proclaim to the world on Social Media that they have umpteen things coming out in the next few months, that they never stop working, that they have a dozen side projects on the go at any one time, don’t feel you automatically need to gasp in admiration, or slap them on the back.  You might just want to give them a sympathetic hug instead and suggest they might consider slowing down a bit and savouring the moment(s).  The world has lots of stuff. Lots. Really, it does. It simply can’t sustain this ever-increasing volume, however much we love buying it, that’s clear for anyone to see.  Thinking things through and taking your time to create something great is what we should really be lauding, not whoever drowns everyone else as fast as possible under their next wave of output.  Maybe we should all take some time out of our busy days to think about that.Detritus

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.


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